Last month, we provided you with part one of the top 15 malpractice prevention tips. (You can view that article here.) Check out the remaining 8 tips below:
Dig deeper to get all required information and ask questions if things don’t add up: Lawyers in many areas of practice are not taking the time to get all the information they need to give proper and complete advice to their clients. (For example, identifying all assets and liabilities on a will or family law matter; getting details of injuries on a tort claim, etc.) You must dig deeper, spot relevant issues and ask all appropriate questions of a client, especially if there is something on a matter that doesn’t quite make sense.
Do not allow yourself to become a pawn: Do not allow loyalty to a client, pressure by a client, greed, or other motivations get in the way of your professional duties and ethics. Do not cut corners, cover up irregularities, or forgo investigative steps at the urging of a client. Doing any of these things will come back to haunt you.
Don’t do any of the things that most annoy clients: These are all the things that would equally annoy you. They include not returning phone calls or e-mails, long periods of inactivity, and surprising a client with bad news or a large account. If you have certain standards or practices that govern your client communications, such as phone calls will be returned within 48 hours, describe them in the initial retainer letter.
Don’t wait until after the file is closed to ask how you did: Ask clients for feedback as the matter progresses, at milestones, or when interim accounts are rendered. Proactively address any concerns or issues the client raises.
Send interim and final reporting letters: At milestones, confirm to the client the work that was done and the results or outcomes, good and bad. Be sure to note any follow-up tasks that are the responsibility of you or the client. In the final reporting letter be clear that your retainer is concluded.
Think VERY carefully before suing for fees: Suing for fees almost guarantees a counter-claim alleging negligence, even if there are no grounds for the allegation.
What goes around comes around: Your reputation will precede you. Be civil at all times to: your client, judges, court staff, and the counsel and client on the other side.
Communicate and document (almost) everything:– Controlling client expectations with good communications is the best way to avoid a claim, and having some documentation of those communications is one of the best ways to defend a malpractice claim.
About the Author
Dan Pinnington is the Vice President of Claims Prevention at practicePRO. This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of LawPro magazine. Reprinted with permission. For more cyber safety tips, visit www.lawpro.ca.